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Clinton's Gown Spoke Beyond The Silence
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Chelsea Clinton isn't the first presidential daughter who has tried to keep private the details of her wedding day. â€œI feel that marriage vows are sacred, and I hope that mine will be spared the hurly-burly attending a news event,â€ Margaret Truman said before her 1956 nuptials in Missouri. At least she and the groom, Clifton Daniel, consented to a press conference with 50 reporters.
But Ms. Clinton, 30, was silent in every way except one. Her dress told a lot.
Designed by Vera Wang, the strapless dress consisted of a number of yards of ivory silk organza that had been lightly gathered, with tulle pleated diagonally on the bodice. The dress was finished with a silvery embroidered waistband, not unlike the dresses with dark sashes that Ms. Wang showed in a bridal collection this year.
It was a flattering dress on a woman with pretty shoulders and a small waist, but it was not an especially high-styled choice. Ms. Wang also made the dress for Ivanka Trump's wedding last year, and its tight lace bodice and elbow-length sleeves, somewhat based on the severe style of Grace Kelly's bridal dress, reflected a sophisticated taste.
In a similar vein, one also thinks of the radically simple dress that Narciso Rodriguez did for Carolyn Bessette's marriage to John F. Kennedy Jr. in 1996. The success of that dress â€” one of the most widely copied at the time â€” was all based on its refined cut. And Ms. Bessette, who worked for Calvin Klein, probably expected that it would have an impact.
Ms. Clinton's dress, on the other hand, suggested a completely different relationship with fashion â€” even, perhaps, an ambivalent one. Her metamorphosis from a gawky, studious teenager to an accomplished, self-assured young woman who prefers straight hair to curly seemed to happen almost overnight, like the discovery, suddenly, that she had a voice and was indeed, as Politico said in 2008, â€œa significant surrogateâ€ and not merely a â€œsilent symbol.â€
Still, we do not really know anything about Ms. Clinton's style, and in a way her pretty dress, with its modestly embellished waist and romantic layers, reflects a woman whose focus is not directed in that way, and maybe is not that vain.
Before Saturday's wedding in Rhinebeck, N.Y., there was a lot of speculation about who designed the dress â€” Ms. Wang or Oscar de la Renta. A number of Web sites favored Mr. de la Renta, on the grounds that he makes clothes for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and designed Jenna Bush's sleeveless lace wedding dress in 2008. Mr. de la Renta also occasionally plays host to Ms. Clinton's parents at his home in the Dominican Republic.
But Ms. Clinton seems her own boss, and one way to create a distinct experience is to have a separate dressmaker. Her mother's dark fuchsia dress was made by Mr. de la Renta.
Apart from Tricia Nixon Cox, who married in 1971 in the White House Rose Garden in a stunning Priscilla of Boston gown, with â€œ400 guests and 600 journalists,â€ according to a news report, the daughters of American presidents are not attention-grabbers.
Amy Carter, wed in 1996, wore a 1920s dress, as well as her glasses, and walked on a carpet of pine straw and magnolia petals. Ms. Truman wore a fitted dress of beige Venetian silk, by the Roman designer Micol Fontana. White did not suit her, she said. Caroline Kennedy wore a dropped-waist gown, by Carolina Herrera, sentimentally embroidered with shamrocks.
Unlike Ms. Bush and many young brides nowadays, Ms. Clinton wore her hair up, scraped away from her face in a somewhat grand chignon. Ms. Bush, who wed at her parents' ranch in Crawford, Tex., and said she wanted everything to have an â€œorganicâ€ feel, also skipped the veil.
Ms. Clinton's wedding was black tie, therefore more formal, but the sleek updo also betrayed the Clinton women's complicated hair history. Her minimal jewelry â€” a small bracelet, earrings â€” seemed closer to her personality.
But that is just a guess. The tab for such a dress would also be pure guesswork. Twenty thousand dollars? Perhaps. (Ms. Wang said in an e-mail that she was not permitted to speak about the bride or the details of her dress.) For the reception, Ms. Clinton changed into an ivory silk tulle Grecian dress with a crisscross back and a black grosgrain belt. Her bridesmaids each wore a strapless gown in lavender chiffon with a plum-colored bow.
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